How India stacks up against China, and why China can’t win despite its military superiority

Whenever India and China face off on the border, the immediate question that arises is, who is the bigger military power?

Obviously, it’s China. China dwarfs India in overall defence capabilities. Its defence budget stands at $152 billion against India’s $51 billion, which is three times that of India.

But that doesn’t mean China can subdue India. Governments on both sides believe that the next India-China conflict would be limited in scope and short in duration instead of a protracted, large-scale, force-on-force campaign. That’s due to the threat of nuclear attack as both the countries have sufficient nuclear capability.

Below is a detailed comparison of the military strength of the two countries:

India has around 1.2 million active personnel, 4,426 combat tanks, 6,704 armoured fighting vehicles, 290 self-propelled artillery, 7,414 towered artillery and 290 rocket projectors.

On the other hand, China has around 2.3 million personnel in active service with 6,457 in combat tanks, 4,788 armoured fighting vehicles, 1,710 self-propelled artillery, 6,246 towered artillery and 1,770 rocket projectors.

China’s naval assets include 714 vessels, with one aircraft carrier, 51 frigates, 35 destroyers, 35 corvettes, 68 submarines, 220 patrol craft and 51 mini warfare vessels.

India’s naval assets include 295 vessels, with three aircraft carriers (one each in service, under construction and being planned), 14 frigates, 11 destroyers, 23 corvettes, 15 submarines, 139 patrol craft and six mini warfare vessels.

Clearly, Chinese naval power overwhelmingly exceeds ours. However, Indian Navy is acquiring as well as building vessels to expand its fleet.

Air force 
India’s total aircraft strength is about 2102, with 676 fighter aircraft, 809 attack aircraft, 857 transporters and 323 trainer aircraft. Total helicopters are around 666, including 16 attack helicopters.

China’s total aircraft strength is about 2,955, with 1,271 fighter aircraft, 1,385 attack aircraft, 782 transporters, 352 trainer aircraft. It has 912 helicopters out of which 206 are attack helicopters.

Nuclear stockpile 
India’s nuclear stockpile has around 130 warheads. Minimum tactical missile range is about 150 km, farthest strike distance tested successfully is 5,000-6,000 km (Agni -V). Surya, an intercontinental ballistic missile being developed, has a range up to 16,000 km.

China has a nuclear stockpile of 270 warheads. Chinese Intercontinental ballistic missiles can strike targets as far as 15,000 km. A missile shield guards China from incoming missiles by intercepting them before they reach Chinese territory. China has at least 90 ICBMs out of which 66 are land-based and 24 are submarine-based.

Siddharth Chakraborty, Economic Times